What extras should you include with your application?

By Hillary Mantis

You have a solid personal statement, your transcripts and LSAT scores are in, and your recommenders have all filed their recommendations…so you are done with your applications, right?

Not necessarily. There are lots of “extras” that may be important to your law school applications. Depending on your circumstances, they can make a huge difference.

Resume:

Your resume is really a standard part of most law school applications, these days. If it is optional, I would definitely include a resume. It gives you the chance to reinforce leadership activities, legal internships and other experience which may not be reflected elsewhere in your application.

How do you make it stand out? The application resume is very similar to  one you would use for a job application. Try to make it one page, even if there is not a word limit given by the law school. Try to use 11 or 12 point font, and not lower than 10 point, so they can easily read it.

If you do have legal experience, group it under one heading so they can scan it right away. If you don’t, no worries. It’s not absolutely necessary to have, and you can focus on other internships, jobs, and activities.

If you decide to list your GPA, make sure that it is an exact match of the GPA on your transcript. I recommend bringing a draft of your resume to your career services office before submitting, to make sure it is easy to read, typo-free, and presents you in the strongest light possible.

Optional Essays:

Most law schools have an optional diversity statement, and some law schools now have additional optional statements. Should you do them? Ideally, yes, if you have something to add to your application.

Read the prompts carefully. Different law schools have different parameters for the optional statements. Many law schools also now have a shorter “why us” essay. A few law schools also have their own essay topics, and some now offer video interviews.

I have seen applicants be accepted to schools where they did not do the optional essays, so if you don’t think they will add anything of substance to your application, they are not always necessary. However, if you do think you can find a way to make them interesting and add to your application, it’s wise to show interest in the school by writing them.

The good news is that they can be shorter than your main personal statement. Remember that they are writing samples, so if you choose to do them they must be well written, grammatically correct, and show the same attention to detail as your personal statement. So if you decide to write optional statements, spend as much effort perfecting them as you did with your personal statement.

Addendum:

Should you write an addendum? Unlike the resume and optional essays, this really depends on the person. Many applicants do not need to include an addendum. It is not necessary to write, unless you want to explain something to the admissions committee.

Typically, an addendum will be used to explain or give context to a low GPA or LSAT score. For example, if you had surgery during your sophomore year and your GPA suffered, that would be an example of someone who most likely would include an addendum.

It’s nice to have the option to write one if you do have something to clarify that the admissions committee might not otherwise know about. If you do write one, I suggest that it be fairly short, to the point, not overly apologetic, and end on a positive note.

For example, the sophomore who had surgery in the example above, could end by telling the admissions committee that her GPA improved considerably once she recovered from surgery.

Adding Additional Documents:

Although they are not a part of your formal application that you submit, it’s also sometimes a good idea to selectively email documents to admissions later. You can send in an updated transcript through LSAC with your fall semester grades, for example, even if you already submitted a transcript.

You can email admissions offices an updated resume if you have landed a new job. Although you certainly don’t want to inundate them with unnecessary additional documents, if you have something new and important to add, you can usually email admissions directly.

This is particularly important if you end up being waitlisted at a school — it’s an opportunity to keep in touch with them and show continued interest in the school.


Hillary Mantis advises pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is the assistant dean for pre-law advising at Fordham University, and author of "Alternative Careers for Lawyers." You can reach her at altcareer@aol.com.